Walking into Old Portland Hardware & Architectural is kind of like walking into a museum, but you can buy the stuff on display. It’s a place to spend time and explore and learn. Bret Hodgert, the owner of Old Porltand Hardware & Architectural, specializes in collecting historical architectural hardware and collectibles that you can use .He also re-purposes some of the items he collects and turns them into new, usable items for your home.
When I arrived at Old Portland Hardware to speak to Bret, I first embarked on an exploration of what the impressive store has to offer. I was immediately entranced by the collection of old door knobs, door knockers, door hardware, and other hardware. I felt taken back to a time when you walked into a hardware store and found beautifully handcrafted items for your home, giving you the opportunity to personalize and decorate your space in a style unique to you. The selection and variety were almost overwhelming, but also beautifully displayed in the store.
After taking multiple photos of the first section of the store I found, I meandered on. I found more eye candy! Every step and turn delighted me with a new discovery. Bret told me to take pictures as I explored, and to ask questions later. I wasn’t quite sure what he meant by that at first, but it became clear as I toured the space. I quickly eyed several beautiful long square tubes with narrower openings at the bottom that were hanging on the wall in one corner. I had no idea they were old organ pipes until Bret told me later during our Q & A session.
Next I discovered some German signs hanging on the wall, which prompted me to look at the area a little closer. Every nook and cranny offered something to ponder and wonder about. Eventually I wandered into the back room and found a bunch of old mechanical and beautifully crafted pinball machines. These machines were even older and simpler than the ones I used as a kid and definitely more appealing to me than the electronic ones from today. Bret and his crew are using parts from these old pinball machines to create other items, such as shelves and tables. Bret showed me a few, and they’re stunning.
I also discovered old movie house equipment and a very old time clock. The time clock is beautiful in design and its engineering. I was immediately awed at the ingenuity and creativity used to build these items, at a time before computers and fancy software. I think I could’ve spent hours just perusing and wandering around, but I did have an appointment to speak with Bret.
Curiosity About Stuff
I immediately noticed that Bret just simply loves owning and operating Old Portland Hardware & Architectural. It shows in his smile and in his eyes. He told me how as a kid he wanted to be that guy in National Geographic digging up weird stuff. He’s curious about old stuff and weird stuff, and wants to know what these things are and how they work. He admitted he’s always collected old things.
Bret started Old Portland Hardware & Architectural about 9 years ago, he told me. He laughed and said his resume didn’t really point him anywhere when he was thinking about doing something new. So, I think he just followed his passion and decided to collect stuff for a living. With a background in working in his family’s remodeling business, the antique hardware rescue and store seems a perfect fit.
To get started, Brett budgeted for purchasing about 1 ½ Penske truck loads of architectural salvage and antiques. He set out on a trek across the US to find his gold. It turns out, he stumbled upon one collection of hardware, stained glass and other interesting items, and he purchased the whole lot. This collection became the anchor for his store.
Bret’s original space was on SE 41st & Division, and he operated Old Portland Hardware & Architectural there for about 5 years. He next moved the store to 22nd & NE Irving and watched that neighborhood transform. Now, Old Portland Hardware & Architectural sits in Sellwood on SE Tacoma, and I think it’s the perfect home.
The old building has just the right feel and energy for Bret’s inventory. The space even has a parking lot for customers. The landlord also built a beautiful door and entrance for the shop. It really does feel like walking back in time when you enter, including the friendly shopkeeper and staff.I asked Bret how he finds the inventory for his store.
Serendipitously, a woman walked in with an old clock she wanted to sell. Bret went over to speak with her and ended up with a new piece for his collection. Bret explained that’s how it often happens. People just walk in with interesting stuff, and he buys it. He also finds interesting things on his own.I asked Bret if everything in the store was for sale. He reported he has three pieces that are of such historical value, they are not for sale.
If you’re curious about what those items might be, just stop by and ask. I’m sure Bret will be happy to show them to you. Then, take your time and explore what the store has to offer.Learn more about Old Portland Hardware & Architectural at its website and Facebook Page.